Dr. Tatjana Crnogorac-Jurcevic reviews protein tests on urine while studying the viability of the method to detect pancreatic cancer. Photo by Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund
LONDON, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Researchers have found three proteins in urine that indicate early stage pancreatic cancer, according to a new study.
While the proteins are also present in the urine of patients with chronic pancreatitis, levels of them are so much lower that cancer can be predicted based on their presence with about a 90 percent accuracy.
"For a cancer with no early stage symptoms, it's a huge challenge to diagnose pancreatic cancer sooner, but if we can, then we can make a big difference to survival rates," said Nick Lemoine, Director of Barts Cancer Institute at Queen Mary University in London, in a press release. "With pancreatic cancer, patients are usually diagnosed when the cancer is already at a terminal stage, but if diagnosed at stage 2, the survival rate is 20 per cent, and at stage 1, the survival rate for patients with very small tumours can increase up to 60 per cent."
Researchers in the study reviewed 488 urine samples: 192 from pancreatic cancer patients, 92 from people with chronic pancreatitis, and 87 from healthy people, as well as 117 samples from patients with other liver and gall bladder conditions.
Patients with pancreatic cancer were found to have high levels of the proteins LYVE1, REG1A and TFF1, out of about 1500 proteins the researchers found in the samples, when compared to the healthy patients. Those with pancreatitis also had slightly higher levels of the proteins than healthy participants, however their levels were much lower than those with cancer.
Based on the 90 percent accuracy rate researchers found when high levels of the proteins are detected, researchers said they plan to follow participants and continue collecting samples to observe protein levels in risk groups between genetic changes that cause cancer and discovery of the disease.
"We've always been keen to develop a diagnostic test in urine as it has several advantages over using blood," said Dr. Tatjana Crnogorac-Jurcevic, a researcher at Queen Mary University of London. "It's an inert and far less complex fluid than blood and can be repeatedly and non-invasively tested. This is a biomarker panel with good specificity and sensitivity and we're hopeful that a simple, inexpensive test can be developed and be in clinical use within the next few years."
The study is published in Clinical Cancer Research.